495 U.S. 711 (1990), 89-163, United States v. Montalvo-Murillo

Docket Nº:No. 89-163
Citation:495 U.S. 711, 110 S.Ct. 2072, 109 L.Ed.2d 720, 58 U.S.L.W. 4652
Party Name:United States v. Montalvo-Murillo
Case Date:May 29, 1990
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 711

495 U.S. 711 (1990)

110 S.Ct. 2072, 109 L.Ed.2d 720, 58 U.S.L.W. 4652

United States

v.

Montalvo-Murillo

No. 89-163

United States Supreme Court

May 29, 1990

Argued Jan. 9, 1990

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

A provision of the Bail Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e), requires that a suspect held in pretrial custody on federal criminal charges be detained if, "after a hearing pursuant to . . . subsection (f)," he is found to pose a risk of flight and a danger to [110 S.Ct. 2074] others or the community and if no condition of release can give reasonable assurances against these contingencies. Section 3142(f) provides that, before detention can occur, a judicial officer "shall" conduct a hearing "immediately upon the person's first appearance before the . . . officer" unless he grants a continuance. Respondent was arrested on federal drug charges, and a Magistrate, at a detention hearing held after respondent's "first appearance" and after continuances granted beyond the period permitted by the Act, ordered his release on bond. The District Court, while finding that no conditions reasonably could assure his appearance or the community's safety, held that the detention hearing had not been held upon respondent's first appearance, and that pretrial release was the appropriate remedy for violation of the statutory requirement. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Upon issuance of the court's mandate, respondent was released, took flight, and remains at large. He is, however, represented by counsel before this Court.

Held:

1. Respondent's flight does not render the case moot, for the resolution of this dispute determines the course of proceedings if and when he is rearrested on the charges now pending. P. 713.

2. In light of the disposition of this case, the Government may detain respondent at once upon his rearrest without first seeking revocation of the existing release order. Pp. 713-714.

3. The failure to comply with the Act's prompt hearing provision does not require release of a person who should otherwise be detained. Pp. 716-722.

(a) Neither the time requirements nor any other part of the Act indicates that compliance with the first appearance requirement is a precondition to holding the hearing or that failure to comply so subverts § 3142(f)'s procedural scheme as to invalidate the hearing. There is no presumption or rule that, for every mandatory duty imposed upon the court or the Government or its prosecutors, there must exist some corollary

Page 712

punitive sanction for departures or omissions, even if negligent. See French v. Edwards, 13 Wall. 506, 511; Brock v. Pierce County, 476 U.S. 253, 260. If Congress' mere use of the word "shall" operated to bar all authority to seek pretrial detention once the time limit had passed, then any other violation of subsection (f)'s procedures -- such as the right to be represented by counsel, present witnesses and evidence, testify, and cross-examine witnesses -- no matter how insignificant, would also prevent a hearing from being "a hearing pursuant to" the statute. Respondent's argument that these other infringements could be subject to a harmless error analysis cannot be reconciled with his contention that absolute compliance with the timely hearing requirement is necessary. Pp. 716-719.

(b) Automatic release contravenes the statutory purpose of providing fair bail procedures while protecting the public's safety and assuring a defendant's appearance at trial. There is no reason to bestow a windfall upon the defendant and visit a severe penalty upon the Government and citizens every time some deviation occurs where the Government and the courts have made diligent efforts, or even where the Government bears some of the responsibility for the hearing's delay. An order of release in the face of the Government's ability to prove that detention is required has neither causal nor proportional relation to any harm caused by the delay in holding the hearing, since release would not restore the benefits of a timely hearing to a defendant who has already suffered from the inconvenience and uncertainty of the delay. Thus, once the Government discovers that the time limits have expired, it may ask for a prompt detention hearing and make its case to detain. P. 719-722.

(c) This ruling is consistent with the rule of Bank of Nova Scotia v. United States, 487 U.S. 250, 256, that a nonconstitutional error is harmless unless it has a "substantial [110 S.Ct. 2075] influence" on the outcome of the proceedings. Here, detention was harmless because respondent, as an individual likely to flee, would have been detained if his hearing had been held upon his first appearance, rather than a few days later. P. 722.

876 F.2d 826 (CA 10 1989), reversed.

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, O'CONNOR, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 722.

Page 713

KENNEDY, J., lead opinion

Justice KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.

Both the District Court, 713 F.Supp. 1407 (NM 1989), and the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, 876 F.2d 826 (1989), found that one Montalvo-Murillo, a suspect held in pretrial custody on federal criminal charges, posed a risk of flight and a danger to the community. Because no condition of release could give reasonable assurances against these contingencies, detention was required by the Bail Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e). The District Court and Court of Appeals held, nevertheless, that respondent must be released because there had been a failure to observe the Act's directions for a timely hearing. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f). To no one's great surprise, the suspect became a fugitive after his release, and is still at large.

We granted certiorari, 493 U.S. 807 (1989), to resolve a split among the Courts of Appeals on whether failure to comply with the prompt hearing provision of the Act requires the release of a person who is a flight risk or a danger to other persons or the community. ** We decide that the Act does not require release, and so we reverse the Court of Appeals. Montalvo-Murillo, though now a fugitive, is the respondent here and is represented by appointed counsel. Respondent's flight does not render the case moot, for our resolution of the dispute determines the course of proceedings if and when he is rearrested on the charges now pending. Since we reverse, the Government may detain respondent at once upon

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his rearrest without first seeking revocation of the existing release order. See 18 U.S.C. § 3148(b).

I

Two provisions of the Bail Reform Act are relevant. The substantive provisions that allow detention are contained in subsection (e):

DETENTION -- If, after a hearing pursuant to the provisions of subsection (f) of this section, the judicial officer finds that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of any other person and the community, [he] shall order the detention of the person before trial. . . .

3142(e). The controversy in this case centers around the procedures for a hearing, found in subsection (f):

DETENTION HEARING -- The judicial officer shall hold a hearing to determine whether any condition or combination of conditions . . . will reasonably assure the appearance [110 S.Ct. 2076] of such person as required and the safety of any other person and the community --

* * * *

The hearing shall be held immediately upon the person's first appearance before the judicial officer unless that person, or the attorney for the Government, seeks a continuance. Except for good cause, a continuance on motion of the person may not exceed five days, and a continuance on motion of the attorney for the Government may not exceed three days. During a continuance, such person shall be detained. . . . The person may be detained pending completion of the hearing.

§ 3142(f).

We review the sequence of events to put the statutory issue in proper context. On Wednesday, February 8, 1989, United States Customs Service agents stopped respondent at a New Mexico checkpoint near the international border.

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The agents discovered approximately 72 pounds of cocaine hidden in respondent's truck. Admitting his plan to link with cocaine purchasers in Chicago, Illinois, respondent agreed to cooperate with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and to make a controlled delivery under Government surveillance. The DEA took respondent and his truck to Chicago in an attempt to complete the transaction, but the anticipated purchasers did not arrive at the delivery point.

The Government then arranged to transfer respondent back to New Mexico, where a criminal complaint had been filed charging him with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. Before his departure, respondent was brought before a Magistrate in the Northern District of Illinois for a transfer hearing pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 40. The hearing was held on Friday, February 10, two days after the initial arrest in New Mexico. Respondent was represented by counsel, and it appears that all parties and the Magistrate agreed that the detention hearing would be held in New Mexico, where the charges were pending. Respondent was returned to New Mexico that same evening.

The weekend intervened. On Monday, February 13, the DEA asked the United States Magistrate's office in New Mexico to schedule a detention hearing. A hearing was convened on Thursday, February 16, and respondent attended with retained counsel. Because the...

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